The gift of a diamond is one many women long for, but one that many men can't afford. The alternatives are less expensive gems, like sapphires or rubies, but these don't carry to the same social and cultural weight. Rarely does the blushing bride-to-be show off a new sapphire engagement ring. The only solution to this sensitive situation is finding a double for the diamond. That double comes in the form of the humble Diamonique. Diamonique is the QVC shopping channel's brand name for cubic zirconia (CZ).
Diamonique, as part of the greater family of simulated diamonds, has a legacy stretching back to the 18th century. The quest for a readily available, inexpensive alternative to diamonds has fascinated jewelers and aficionados since the baroque period. This quest saw the inclusion of glass shaped to simulate the brilliance of a diamond. Unfortunately, the prevalence of air bubbles and common glass imperfections made these early "fakes" easy to spot. It was not until the isolation of cubic zirconium (ZrO2) in 1976 that telling the difference between a real diamond and a manufactured Diamonique has become a nuanced endeavor.
There are a number of diamond pretenders (Diamonique included), all of them hewn from various materials. A common material is colorless scheelite. Scheelite has the brilliance of a diamond, but it is not as hard and subsequently loses its polish quickly. Another popular variant is carbonate cerussite. Cerussite is a good diamond substitute, in terms of brilliance, but suffers the same density problems as scheelite. Rounding out the list of contenders is sphalerite (also known as zinc blende). It is an extremely lustrous stone that is popular, but highly fragile.
Diamonique, as a variant of cubic zirconium, enjoys the two key features that make them comparable to "real" diamonds: impeccable crystallinity and durable hardness. Cubic zirconia tend to be rather pure, brilliant gemstones that are only marginally less hard than diamonds. This makes Diamonique stones difficult to spot and popular with customers of certain income brackets. Oddly, both Diamoniques and diamonds are not rare gemstones; indeed, they are both readily available, yet diamonds are made rare by means of cartel and market controls.
As with all cubic zirconia, Diamonique can be distinguished from diamond by means of a few key features. Diamoniques are far more brilliant than real diamonds. They tend to flare in sunlight. Diamoniques feel heavier than real diamonds. They tend to be nearly twice as heavy as real diamonds. Furthermore, Diamoniques are perfect. Every facet has been engineered to be perfect, whereas real diamonds, even highly rated diamonds, have some sort of flaw.
The popular misconception is that cubic zirconia is meant to replace or equal diamonds. Diamonique is more affordable and works as a substitute for diamonds in jewelry. However, in terms of industrial use, cubic zirconia is far less useful than real diamonds. Real diamonds are far more durable and far less brilliant. On the Mohs hardness scale, a diamond is a 10, while a Diamoniqe or CZ stone is an 8.5.
Victor Fonseca started writing professionally in 1998. His specialties are history, popular culture, and information technology. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in political science from Southern Methodist University and spent a year studying at the American University of Rome.